2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

UPDATED 6/22/18: Added Indiana and Iowa to the table.

UPDATED 6/25/18: Added Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas* to the table

*(Texas only has about 1/3 of the total ACA individual market accounted for, so it could easily change)

UPDATED 7/3/18: Added Montana and Georgia to the table

UPDATED 7/13/18: Added Tennessee, updated Texas to add BCBSTX

UPDATED 7/16/18: Added Colorado

UPDATED 7/17/18: Added Nevada

UPDATED 7/19/18: Added California

California's contains over 12% of the entire U.S. population, around 13% of total ACA exchange enrollment and nearly 16% of the total ACA individual market. As such, when they make any announcements about their ACA exchange policies (or in this case, 2019 premiums), it's a pretty big deal for the national averages.

Today, Covered California, the largest state-based ACA exchange, announced their proposed 2019 ACA premium changes:

Covered California Releases 2019 Individual Market Rates: Average Rate Change Will Be 8.7 Percent, With Federal Policies Raising Costs

 

NOTE: I'll be expanding on explainers for some of the items below over time, but I wanted to make sure this got out well before the August 7th primary.

Dear Democratic candidates for Michigan State House, State Senate or Governor this November:

If you're familiar with me and this site, you probably know three things about me:

  • 1. I strongly support achieving Universal Healthcare coverage, and I'd ideally prefer to utilize some sort of Single Payer system as the payment mechanism to do so.

 

via Amy Lotven of Inside Health Policy:

Update: The court has instead opted to dismiss the case; but states can bring action again if circumstances change i.e. Admin blocks silver-loading in 2020 and beyond. IHP story TK @nicholas_bagley @charles_gaba taking comments ! https://t.co/cPHJlmehsH

— Amy Lotven (@amylotven) July 18, 2018

She's referring to this:

Dem AGs Ask Court To Put CSR Case On Hold In Light Of Silver-Loading

This just in via email...

MNsure again giving Minnesotans more time to shop for health coverage for 2019
Minnesotans will have an extra month to shop for coverage again this year

ST. PAUL, MN--Today MNsure announced the dates during which Minnesotans will have time to shop for 2019 health coverage. Open enrollment will begin on Nov. 1, 2018, and run through Jan. 13, 2019. This is nearly a month longer than the federal open enrollment period that runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. As a state-based marketplace, MNsure has authority to supplement the upcoming federal open enrollment period with a special enrollment period to give Minnesotans more time to shop.

"Shopping for health coverage is a complex process, and Minnesotans rely on the free in-person assistance offered by MNsure’s assister network," said acting CEO Nate Clark. "This year our assisters face additional challenges given the amount of change coming to Minnesota’s Medicare plans. The extra time to shop will ensure that all MNsure consumers who need it will get that vital assistance."

A few days ago I noted that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, which holds over 50% of TN's ACA-compliant individual market, specifically noted in their individual market rate filings that while they're lowering rates by 10.9% on average in 2019, they had been planning on lowering rates considerably more prior to the bombshell announcement that CMS has decided to "freeze" Risk Adjustment fund transfers for an unknown period of time. Specifically:

“Our rate reduction would have been larger, but we had to account for added uncertainty in our rates due to indefinite suspension (the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) placed on risk adjustment transfers between insurers,” said , said Mary Danielson, a BCBST spokeswoman. “Again, we were planning a larger reduction – around 18 percent – but needed to factor in the prospect of greater costs for 2019.”

So, last night this happened:

Hmmm...the wording here is interesting: “Improved and expanded” Medicare for All. If it’s “for all” isn’t “expanded” redundant? Or is this a nod towards “for all who want it”? Cc @colinb1123

We‘re fighting for Improved & Expanded Medicare for All.

We‘re fighting for college + trade school without crushing debt.

We‘re fighting for dignified retirement for our elders, and a Green New Deal for our children.

We’re here to fight for our future:https://t.co/piU7pXIL1u

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) July 18, 2018

— Charles Gaba (@charles_gaba) July 18, 2018

I’m not slamming her here, I’m just curious because that’s the first time I’ve heard that particular phrasing surrounding it by staunch M4A advocates.

Breaking out of Nevada...

The cost of plans through Nevada’s health insurance exchange are anticipated to only increase by an average of 1.9 percent next year in what the state’s insurance commissioner said is the lowest proposed rate increase from insurance companies since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014.

The announcement, made by the Division of Insurance late Tuesday morning, comes amid ongoing uncertainty about the impact that Congress’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and federal rule changes for two types of non-ACA-compliant health plans will have on the individual market as a whole. Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson cautioned that the proposed rates are subject to change based on any action by the federal government and said the division is working “diligently” to review the proposed rates from insurance companies.

That 1.9% figure is slightly misleading, though, because...

This year, thanks to their reinsurance program, ACA individual market premiums dropped by around 23.6% on average, from a whopping $1,040/month to "only" $795/month per enrollee.

HOWEVER, they would have dropped about 4.5 percentage points more if not for Trump cutting off Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursement payments, or roughly $560/year per enrollee. AK averaged around 16,000 effectuated ACA-compliant individual market enrollees per month in 2017, so that amounts to right around $8.9 million total. 6,930 enrollees qualify for CSR assistance this year, so that averages around $1,280 apiece in CSR help, which sounds about right to me.

Last fall I wrote a lot about how different states would be dealing with the tens of millions of dollars in losses they were facing after the Trump Administration decided to cut off Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) reimbursement payments to them. As a quick reminder, there basically four (or five, depending on your POV) options available to each carrier and/or state insurance commissioner for dealign with CSR costs for 2018:

  • No Load: They could gamble that the CSR problem would be resolved and the payments would be made after all (i.e., they would price normally).
  • Broad Load: They could spread the CSR cost out evenly across all of their 2018 ACA policies, on exchange & off.
  • Silver Load: They could load the CSR costs onto all Silver plans only (both on & off exchange).
  • Silver Switcharoo: They could load CSR costs onto all on-exchange Silver plans only, while also creating "mirror" Silver plans off-exchange without any CSR load.
  • Mixed Load: Each insurance carrier could choose whichever of the other 4 strategies they wanted to and let the chips fall where they may. Not sure if this really counts as a "strategy", since it's more or less "all of the above".

Via the Colorado Division of Insurance:

DENVER (July 13, 2018) – The Colorado Division of Insurance, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), today released preliminary information for proposed health plans and premiums for 2019 for individuals and small groups. Colorado consumers can file formal comments on these plans through August 3.

2018 Companies Return for 2019
The same seven companies that offered on-exchange, individual plans are returning for 2019 - Anthem (as HMO Colorado), Bright Health, Cigna Health and Life, Denver Health Medical Plans, Friday Health Plans, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and Rocky Mountain HMO. And like in past years, this means that all counties in Colorado will have at least one on-exchange company selling individual health plans.

 

Over at the Brookings Institute, there's a big wonky forum this morning called (De)stabilizing the ACA’s individual market: A view from the states. The panelists include several of my own healthcare heroes: Louise Norris, Brad Wright, Lynn Blewett, Cynthia Cox, Sabrina Corlette and Matt Fiedler:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), through the individual health insurance markets, provided coverage for millions of Americans who could not get health insurance coverage through their employer or public programs. However, recent actions taken by the federal government, including Congress’s repeal of the individual mandate penalty, have led to uncertainty about market conditions for 2019. Market stabilization is currently the most critical regulatory issue that public policy officials are facing under the private insurance component of the ACA.

Holy guacamole. I've noted repeatedly that unlike last fall, when average rate increases of 20-30% or more were commonplace for ACA individual market policies (due mainly to Trump cutting off CSR reimbursement payments), the preliminary rate requests for 2019 are actually averageing quite a bit lower than originally expected; of the 20 or so states I've crunched the numbers for so far, the weighted average for unsubsidized premium hikes is hovering around the 10% mark.

At first glance, it may sound like Democrats have been overplaying their hand when it comes to the "individual mandate repeal/short-term plan expansion is causing massive hikes!" attack. However, the rate increases from deliberate sabotage are happening...they're just being partly cancelled out by other factors, including:

If you've followed this site for awhile, you may recall that about a year ago, I called out the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) for trying to pull a fast one regarding the 2017 Open Enrollment Period data.

The short version is that they tried to make it look as though only 10.3 million of the 12.2 million people who selected Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) from the ACA exchanges actually paid their first month's premium and were actually enrolled (i.e., "effectuated"), or around 84%. They then tried using this "fact" as evidence of how the ACA was failing, etc etc, because this was supposedly down from 2016 levels.

The difference, as I noted at the time, is that the 2016 effectuation numbers were as of March, while the 2017 effectuation numbers were as of February. This made a big difference, because around 500,000 people who enrolled during 2017 Open Enrollment couldn't have been effectuated for February...because about half a million people enrolled between Jan. 16th - Jan. 31st, which meant their policies weren't even scheduled to begin until March.

When the ACA exchanges first launched for the 2014 Open Enrollment Period, the law included three individual market stabilization programs. One of the programs was called reinsurance, and as far as I know it worked pretty well. Unfortunately, the federal ACA reinsurance program sunsetted after only three years, at the end of 2016, which is part of why rates spiked so much in 2017 (they shot up in most states in 2018 as well, but for very different reasons).

In response, several states (Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon) have enacted their own, state-level reinsurance programs, and several more are on the way (New Jersey, Maryland and Wisconsin). It's a fairly cut & dried way of keeping premiums down (or even lowering them in some cases) which requires no additional federal spending and much less state spending than you would think.

Here's an example of how it works:

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